By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Perhaps no one saw it happening the way it has, but it’s not all that surprising that the Eagles have started the season 2-0. The Cardinals on the other hand, by virtue of a comeback win against the Seahawks and a shocking upset of the Patriots, are a 2-0 team that no one expected.
They’ve done it with defense, and a familiar name to Eagles fans; Kevin Kolb.
Spike: We here in Philadelphia were as surprised as anyone to see Kevin Kolb’s success over the last two weeks. The Cardinals have won, but how has Kolb really played?
Kolb has not been spectacular, but he has been able to lead the offense down the field on key drives. He reminds me quite a bit of how Alex Smith was for the 49ers in 2011; he is a game manager. Given the fact that the run game has been abominable for the Cardinals so far, I would say Kolb fared well against the Patriots.
Spike: The Cardinals defense was impressive in 2011, and has continued that trend so far this year. What do they do best?
Tyler: The Cardinals’ defense is the real deal. The thing that I think they do best is get to the quarterback in a variety of ways. They have the ability to mask their plays, confusing opposing quarterbacks. Tom Brady said after last week’s game that he basically had no idea what the defense was doing and what they planned on bringing after him. With talented pass rushers along the defensive line in a 3-4 front (Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell) the Cards are able to get pressure without bringing the house. That is what helped them defeat the Pats last Sunday.
Spike: If there’s a weakness to the Cardinals defense, what is it?
Tyler: The team still struggles in defending tight ends. Inside linebacker Daryl Washington does everything very well, but struggled against Rob Gronkowski last week. Granted, Gronk is one of the best tight ends in the game, but the Cardinals rarely have an answer for above average tight ends. Adrian Wilson does decently, as do the outside linebackers. I think the team has the most success when they put FS Kerry Rhodes in man coverage on the tight end, but that is rarely the case. I could see Celek doing quite well on Sunday.
Spike: At 2-0, are the Cardinals a legitimate playoff contender?
Tyler: Let’s define playoff contender. Are they a contender to make the playoffs? Absolutely. They have an elite defense and a coaching staff with leaders on the team that have been there before. They have a nice combination of youth and veterans and will give the 49ers a run for their money in the division. As far as a contender once the playoffs begin, I am not so sure. If you look at which teams have won the Super Bowl over the past few seasons, they have all had elite quarterbacks. The Cardinals do not have that. I am not sure their offense would be able to keep pace with teams like the Packers, Giants, etc. in the playoffs.
Spike: Paint the most likely scenario that results in a Cardinals win, and the most likely scenario that results in an Eagles win.
Tyler: Once again, this will come down to pressuring the quarterback if the Cardinals are to win this game. Michael Vick’s elusive ability calls for a clear set edge from the linebackers. They will need to hit him early and often in order to win, much like they did last season. For the Eagles, I think it comes down to handing the ball to LeSean McCoy and letting him go to work. If the Patriots would have found that out earlier last week, they could have done it with Stevan Ridley, exploiting the Cardinals’ nickel defense that lacked a true nose tackle in the game. With McCoy, the Eagles have a far superior back and one that can explode for huge plays. If they win, Shady will be the reason.
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